Great Balls of Ire

In my defense, let me first say this: I was simply voicing a humble opinion about the Patriots’ defensive secondary.

It was the night of the 1997 Super Bowl, and I was standing in Fritz, which is sort of like Boston’s gay Cheers, except the bartenders are not as cute as Sam Malone and nobody knows your name. My friend Jon and I were watching the New England Patriots struggle against the Green Bay Packers while around me my fellow patrons chatted and swirled cosmopolitans, counting the minutes to the halftime show.

Then quarterback Brett Favre completed a long bomb to wide receiver Antonio Freeman, and I couldn’t contain myself. “Where was the outside linebacker?” I screamed at the TV. “Where was the rush? You call that a blitz? He could have written a novel standing in the pocket!”

The bar went quiet, and I looked into a sea of disbelieving eyes. They knew I was gay–I mean, I was drinking Zima, for chrissake. But the idea of actually enjoying football seemed un-fathomable. “Darling!” one kerchiefed gentleman exclaimed dryly to his lover, “this one actually knows the lingo!” For the rest of the evening everyone watched me watching the game, as if I were an anthropological discovery worthy of Margaret Mead.

To these guys, the Super Bowl was an excuse to socialize–a tea dance with a scoreboard, where the fun lies in the witty commercials and the cheerleaders. But to me, the Super Bowl is the ultimate competition, a contest between the best of the best. I walked home muddled with questions. Was I some sort of gay freak? How was I ever going to find a boyfriend who shared an interest in sports? And what happened to the goddamned New England passing attack?

In truth, there were no easy answers. My interest in sports invariably has led my fellow homosexuals to assume that I was forced by bullying brothers to hide my Barbies and learn the infield fly rule. Not so.

True, like many gay boys, I couldn’t play sports to save my life. But I grew up in Philadelphia, perhaps the country’s most zealous sports town, in a house with a hockey net in the basement and a mother who had an informed opinion on whom the Eagles should be starting at linebacker. I know of a lot of guys who grew up similarly only to rebel against sports and its heavy hetero overtones. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe I wanted to fit in. Maybe I liked the competitive spirit of it all. Or maybe I just liked looking at all those fine asses in tight pants. If you haven’t noticed, pro sports is loaded with eye candy. I have a mad crush on Marvin Harrison, the Indianapolis Colts’ star wide receiver, who I think has the sexiest lips in the NFL. (Note to Marvin: If you’re reading this, call me.)

But try explaining this in a dim bar shouting to some guy over the “Oops! . . . I Did It Again” dance remix and, well, Allan Houston, we have a problem. Still, every once in a while lightning strikes. On one memorable first date, I went to his place and we spent the day wrapped around each other on the couch, watching the NFL draft on ESPN. We kissed and cuddled amid Chris Berman’s commentary on the Saints’ first-rounder and rumors that the Cardinals were looking to trade up. Unfortunately, my date traded me not longer after. But the experience gave me hope that I was not alone.

Over the years I have grown to cherish my sports fetish. It provides me with a personality trait to both surprise and amuse people and, in doing so, beats stereotype–which is more exhilarating than I ever would have imagined. Now, when the topic of who will win the NCAA Final Four arises, I am the big butch expert. And let me tell you: For a guy who can spot a Kate Spade bag at 20 feet, that’s a championship feeling.

From the gay and lesbian magazine Out (Dec. 2000). Subscriptions: $18/yr(12 issues) from Box 576, Mt. Morris, IL 61054.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.